Chapter Twenty-One: TomorrowMature

Raider offered to teach Molly how to use her mechanical wings, in case she ever needed anybody to fill in for her act. Molly had gotten as far as strapping the wings onto her back, with Raider's help, when a deep growling alerted the two girls to the giant cat napping in the center of the big top. Although, she wasn't napping anymore; she hadn't moved an inch, but her piercing yellow eyes were fixed on Molly - specifically on the arms which Raider had wrapped around her to secure the contraption.

"She's gotten very protective of you, hasn't she?" Raider noted, pulling away. Molly sensed the older girl was particularly nervous around the striped beast, yet she would rather be ripped to shreds than admit it.

"I suppose she has," Molly said with a shy smile. The tiger's obsession with Molly's whereabouts and well-being had been a hindrance over the last couple of weeks, at least in the eyes of the other performers; but Molly was enjoying the attention. They were marketing her act as the fabulously bizarre girl who had managed to tame the fiercest beast to roam the world; but in reality, the exact opposite had happened. The beast had adopted her. 

"Will she stay.... over there, as long as I don't touch you again?"

"Of course. But you really shouldn't be so frightened of her. She's more nervous of you than you are of her."

Raider grinned. "I'm not frightened of her, Molly, jeez - I've grown up with this circus, I was playing with snakes before I could talk." Just then, the big cat shifted her weight and stretched out her front paws, disrupting the sandy floor of the arena, claws emerging, teeth flashing through a giant yawn. Raider jumped and reached for Molly's hand.

Molly laughed and squeezed her friend's hand as the tiger's eyes fell shut and she rested her chin on top of her furry paws. 

"Alright, she puts me a little on edge," Rai sighed, lowering her eyes to the floor. Molly had never seen her look so vulnerable. It made her heart flutter. It made her wish that Rai would kiss her again, like she had on that first morning, before she had been introduced to everybody else.

"Can't you just put the wings on, and fly me around the tent a couple of times? You're so good at it, and I'm sure it'll take me forever just to learn how to take off." The idea of Rai holding her close and the two of them flying together caused Molly to subtly bite her lip to keep from smiling.

Raider chuckled and tucked a short lock of hair behind her ear. "Molly, if I thought I'd be able to do that, I'd have flown away from here with you by now."

Blood flooded Molly's cheeks. A sinking sensation clutched at her stomach as Buck's voice drifted from the door of the tent, calling for Rai. Rai's eyelids fluttered as the moment shattered - almost audibly - and she called back to Buck. Molly hadn't the slightest notion of what the conversation was about, and continued to gaze into space until Raider had vanished from her vision and left her alone in the ring.

She shook her head and dropped to her knees next to the slumbering, purring tiger. She shimmied the flying contraption from her shoulders, rested her head on the cat's warm, soft neck and shut her eyes.

Tonight is the last show. Who knows where we could be by tomorrow.

The End

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